I really don’t know what to say about this news of termites. Termites to me still seem like something in a cartoon – a comedy pest if you will. Though, if they do get anywhere near The Mom’s house, we’re stuffed.
I don’t really have that kind of bug-related issue over here, except Spider Season. The spiders aren’t trying to destroy my flat, but they’re trying to destroy something.
When I first moved over to these shores, I lived down in Cornwall. Way down in the back and beyond of Cornwall. I think the spiders are bigger there on purpose. Like they have more room to grow, clean air, bigger nests in which to grow and become freakishly large, as opposed to their city-dwelling friends. When I first moved over, I didn’t even realise spider season was a thing. I thought people were just being a bit funny. Then I got a few bites. Not fun. Worse still was seeing the creature that had bitten me stalk off to other parts of the flat. Not at all reassuring.
One houseshare – six students in all – used to keep a jar on the mantle with two spiders in it. Every time the big guy ate the little one, they’d get him a new sparring partner. The big spider grew to terrifying proportions and I do believe was released into the garden for surviving the entire thing. We used to watch him as he attacked the other ones. Spider fighting. Look, the weather gets bad and there’s not a lot to do in a tiny fishing village.
But despite some freaky nightmares and a few scratchy bites, spider season isn’t quite the same as having your house eaten by termites. And I suppose the only comparable thing here is the mould or the damp or the unholy combination of the two.
Not being a homeowner myself, I tend to worry less about the various kinds of damp that can afflict places. As a renter, I can just pack up and move. But I have seen some truly astonishing things that mould has done.
Friends who live in London had a garden flat (which is not quite a basement flat because there are no basements here, but it’s below grade). So already a bit on the dampish side. But they got dehumidifiers and kept the heating on and felt that generally things would be okay. Until such time as they looked at their dining room chairs that had a soft cover, and the shoes they’d stored under the bed, which were all covered in white mould.
Which is different from the pink mould that usually lives in all bathrooms. Which is fine, really, because you kind of expect a bit of mould in the bathroom. What is not fine is when you’re looking at flats in Glasgow, to rent of course, and the bathroom appears to be held up exclusively by mould. Black, dark, thick, mould. Which the letting agent glosses over in a way that only a letting agent can.
Friends of mine who are homeowners up in Glasgow have a strange habit of looking at the walls in their house with a side-long glance. They’ll go up to them and touch them, checking for rising damp. It’s sort of like checking for fever I suppose. But it’s a strange thing to see someone ministering to their walls with such delicate, gentle compassion. And it’s usually all for naught.
In my current flat, I don’t as of yet have a mould problem because it’s very dry in here. That’s because the windows aren’t great and when a howling gale blows off the river, it comes directly into my lounge, which makes it cold, but also keeps things nice and dry.
What I do love about the British is their never-ending battle against damp and mould. What’s impressive is that they don’t give up. They will not be cowed. They keep going back and looking for ways to deal with it. But to me, living in a country where if you stand still long enough, moss grows on you, this dampness is something that requires more in acceptance and less in doing. I mean, most of the stuff over here has been around for donkey’s years, like hundreds and hundreds of years, and it’s not fallen down. Everyone already has a weird cough so maybe we should just stop wasting time and do something more constructive than trying to win the battle against the mould.